Musical Monday vol. 10: two days early! with content! (Lullabye)

I had a marvelous birthday on Friday! Me and Dave went downtown and got, respectively, a library card and a current state ID. Then, in the evening, Mom and sisters came in from the suburbs, bearing good cheer and birthday cards. Also Dave and sisters and I were treated with a ride to and tickets for--courtesy of Mom--the Babes With Blades production of Macbeth, which kicked all kinds of behind. (And front, too, in some of the excellent fight scenes.)

For all that, the thing I'm most excited about from my birthday is the following song. I may have gotten the energy and verve to compose it from my good birthday excitement, but its direct inspiration comes from a much more quotable source. Namely, The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross, a book about 20th century classical music:

"Maurice Ravel nearly died around the same time. The tiny-framed composer should have been barred from military service, but, enraged by the bombing of Reims, he enlisted as a truck driver. By the spring of 1916 Ravel was deployed just behind the front lines and witnessed the ghastly aftermath of the Battle of Verdun. He often had to weave back and forth on pockmarked roads as shells fell all around him. Once he found himself in an abandoned town on a sunny day, walking through the empty, silent streets. 'I don't believe I will ever experience a more profound or stranger emotion than this sort of mute terror,' he wrote. Another time he entered an abandoned château, found a fine Erard piano, and sat down to play some Chopin." ~ p. 102

I resolved to write a poem about it, copied it down in my notebook, even read the passage aloud to everyone in the car on the way back from the play. They agreed it was a very poetic image. But instead, it came out as a song! This is the first thing I've ever written in 6/8 time and I'm pretty excited about it, for that and a number of other reasons. (Little note: the accent on "double" is on the first syllable, and also on the first syllable in "piano." This is to preserve the triplet, and the lines kinda sound weird if you put them in the normal spot. But trust me, it sounds good when sung. Oh, and "generals" is pronounced "gen'rals" so it's only two syllables. Gack, I know, it's cheating. XD So sue me.)

Enough intro. Here's the lyrics! :)


[Ravel at the war (Lullabye)] 5/29/09

the road is staccato and rubble
it rains flame and trouble
bent double I struggle to steer
even far from the front lines
my feet beat double time
down hot empty streets where there's no one to hear

but I'll play you
a lullabye, lullabye, lullabye
your streets can't weep
but my instrument, instrument, instrument
knows how to cry

the prophets of frenzy
have bombed this town empty
soon generals will send me to where they've moved on
this abandoned château
with its lone piano
wakes something in my soul I was certain was gone

so I'll play you
a lullabye, lullabye, lullabye
they betrayed you
but I brought you some music
I don't think it knows how to lie

these notes seem so small and pathetic
when tyrranous rhetoric's
backed up by poison and shells
may the fallen sleep sweet
may we always defeat
those who'd burn down the world when it's too soon to tell

don't call it weak
a lullabye, lullabye, lullabye
the dead can't speak
but my instrument can
and while it's in my hands, so can I
so can I
so can I

4 comments:

Amber E said...

Wow, great song, it is an emotionally evocative song/poem that really reacts to the story.

Lorena said...

Hey, happy belated birthday.

What a beautiful poem! It brings memories of civil war stories I've heard of.

The stories happened about 10 miles from house, so the poem hits me hard. Very hard.

The Woeful Budgie said...

Happy birthday! (Belatedly!) Beautiful song, too.

Fiat Lex said...

@Amber:
:D Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. Who knows, maybe if I keep reading good stuff I can be inspired by more stories about other people.

@Lorena:
Thank you. I'm both humbled and, ah...prouded isn't a word, is it. Ah well. What's humbling is that empathizing with Ravel's experience of war accidentally brought me closer to you. Which I did not intend but am grateful to know!

@Budgie:
Many thanks!
I need to learn of more birthdays so that I can offer happy wishes on them. XD If I didn't have a wall calendar I swear I wouldn't know what day of the week it is.